The Golfer Watchability Index: Part 5
10. Billy Horschel (65.5)
When I first started making GIFs in 2013 while watching tournaments, I always used to say that I loved when Billy Horschel was in the field because there was a great chance that he was going to explode on the course; a dream for someone making GIFs.
He certainly did his fair share of that and still does from time to time, but what we’ve seen over the past two years is the emergence of one of the game’s best ball strikers, and he does it with a super aggressive style, which should surprise no one considering that he’s an active supporter of the No Laying Up movement. I’ve mentioned before in these posts that the most exciting thing in golf is when a player gets hot and you think that a 60 could be in play, and Horschel is just as likely as anyone to go low, plus that emotion that I mentioned earlier is something that carries over into his interviews and on social media. You never have to guess what Horschel is really thinking, as he has absolutely no filter and while he has rubbed some people the wrong way in the past, these stories from Jason Sobel and D.J. Piehowski shine some light on the guy that brings a ton of passion and energy to the game that you just don’t see from a ton of tour pros. He’s real, he’s honest, he’s one hell of a player and anyone who dresses like this has my attention.
T8. Bubba Watson (67)
Everything about Bubba Watson on the course from the bombing mentality and shot shaping to the severely underrated short game, produces an incredibly entertaining brand of golf that is made even better by the fact that he absolutely makes it work as one of the best players in the world. I mean, anyone that pulls off this kind of shot in a playoff at the Masters is worth watching.
He plays to his incredible strengths, and fortunately for those of us watching, one of those happens to be his gigantic supply of #TourSauce. His go to move? Blaming literally anything or anyone other than him when something goes wrong.
Look, we all know about the reputation that Bubba has. The #PrayForTedScott movement is a real thing and even though Scott constantly repeats that he’s treated fantastically by Bubba, there’s far too much evidence to the contrary to believe that entirely. He wouldn’t get helped by his fellow tour pros if he was in a parking lot melee and if you want to look through some of the favourites or likes on Twitter of tour players, you can see who really doesn’t like the guy, but there’s no doubt that all of this stuff plays into the idea that he’s highly watchable. In part four, I talked about Ian Poulter and how he’s got a little bit of the Howard Stern effect to him and Bubba’s like that too, but times a hundred.
If things are going well, you’re treated to a creator of shots that just doesn’t come along very often. How many players do you know that simply just never hit the ball straight? He’s always looking to do something fun with it, and if things are going poorly, there’s a good chance that he’s going to explode because in those instances, he’s a giant child. Whether you love him or you hate him, there’s no denying that Bubba Watson is highly entertaining and a must watch.
T8. Hideki Matsuyama (67)
When Ryo Ishikawa first played in the Presidents Cup at 18 back in 2009, it was widely assumed that we were seeing Japan’s next global golf star and while at 24, Ryo still has time to bust through, Hideki Matsuyama is now without question Japan’s top gun. At just 23 years old, Matsuyama has seven professional wins, with his biggest coming against Kevin Na in a playoff at the 2014 Memorial and he’s posted three top-10 finishes in majors already as well. What makes him so watchable is a variety of factors, namely that from a ball striking standpoint, there are few in the world who enter his league and like most young players, he usually just fires at pins all round. Throw in a gorgeous swing that has a unique pause at the top, and there are few things more enjoyable in the game of golf right now than watching Matsuyama swing a club, assuming it’s not a putter where he unfortunately has a little bit of the Adam Scott Syndrome.
However, you can’t talk about Matsuyama’s watchability without making mention of the fact that even at 23, he’s a seasoned vet in the #TourSauce realm and it’s mostly because he has mastered the idea that absolutely nothing will ever live up to his standards.
How bullish am I on Matsuyama? I made a bet with Soly from No Laying Up that he would win a major before Jordan Spieth, and while that didn’t work out, I can tell you that if he gets just a little better on the greens, we’re going to be mentioning him alongside Spieth, Day and McIlroy for the foreseeable future.
7. Patrick Reed (68)
As great as 2015 was for golf, the presence of Patrick Reed was sorely lacking, but thankfully he has really picked it up in the last few weeks, with top ten finishes in his last five starts. That’s good because even if you fall in the anti-Reed camp, of which there are many, there’s no denying that he’s a character that we don’t see often in golf. He speaks his mind, which can backfire on him from time to time on the course (Link NSFW), and there’s a reason why he won the inaugural #Saucies last year but he’s more than just a player with a loose mouth and an over the top attitude towards the game: Reed can really play, and he does it with a game that doesn’t really waiver at all from tee to green. Statistically, he’s a better putter than a ball striker, which is a rarity this high on the list, but that doesn’t stop him from dumping an ocean of sauce on every fairway after shots that go well…
…and not so well…
Ultimately, it comes down to this when it comes to Patrick Reed: he’s good, he knows he’s good, we know he’s good and he’s not afraid to tell people that or show it off at any point. The fact that he’s embraced the wrestling heel mentality may rub a few people the wrong way, but it doesn’t bother me and I highly doubt that it bothers him. Enjoy Patrick Reed because he’s a rarity, and keep quiet because he’s fun to watch and fun to listen to as well.
T5. Jason Day (69)
The run Jason Day went on at the end of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season was an absolute joy to watch and in the last few years, I’m not sure there’s been a more entertaining tournament from one individual player than Day’s 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. It was like he knew that the tournament was completely his and there was no way he was going to lose because there was no line from the tee taken that wasn’t the most aggressive. There was no flag that wasn’t in danger of being assaulted from the fairway. There were pretty much no putts left short of the hole.
The perfect example of this was on the par-5 16th on Sunday. Day was still attempting to hold off Jordan Spieth for the win and he saw Spieth go at the flag, which was only about ten feet or so off the left, but end up in the bunker left of the green. At this point, even with Spieth’s short game, Day’s in the driver’s seat and there’s absolutely no reason to see him play left of the flag considering the amount of room he had on the right, even if he’s been doing it all week. Sure enough, Day goes hard at the flag, ending up left of it and on the fringe, leading to a birdie and the win. All week, he was like that being super aggressive and doing it with the same gorgeous swing that we’ve been watching for years; a swing that is still probably a little too fast for its own good and has likely led to a few of Day’s injuries in the past, but it doesn’t make it any less beautiful. It’s what allows him to hit those absolutely titanic moon balls that never feel like they’re going to come down.
No one has ever doubted the talent or the aggressive style, and while he doesn’t have a defined go to move in the #TourSauce department, he gets it done there too. On top of that, his back story makes him even more intriguing and easy to root for, as you can see in the video below.
T5. Phil Mickelson (69)
I really have no idea how good Phil Mickelson is anymore, at least not on a week to week basis, but there’s no denying that a tournament with Phil in the field just seems to have a different aura about it. Let’s review the checklist:
Aggressive style? There is literally no shot on this planet that Phil thinks is outside of his bag. He’s played shots from the hospitality areas:
Backwards while in a bunker:
And lets not forget the absolutely batshit crazy through the trees shot on the 13th at Augusta back in 2010, pulling out the flop at times when it doesn’t even seem like the correct play, or the amount of times that we’ve seen Phil and Bones disagree on a shot that Phil pulls off and says something like “I just didn’t want to tell you about the window I had.” The man is a lunatic, and as odd as it sounds considering how much attention we pay to him, it sometimes feels like we haven’t appreciated him enough because of how he’s lived in Tiger’s shadow.
#TourSauce? Tiger may have invented it, but Phil is one of the current kings as well, and there might not be a saucier move out there than having Bones tend the flag for him from 100 yards out. His story, evolving from the FIGJAM of the past to today’s current elder statesman, is a fascinating transformation to me and there probably isn’t a better interview in the game today than Phil. He’s the total package, and considering that he might not have a ton of time left as an elite player, it makes it even more important that you tune in when he’s in the field.
4. Henrik Stenson (70)
You know that scene in Tin Cup when Kevin Costner breaks all of his clubs except the 7-iron and finishes the round with it? If you haven’t seen it, and somehow missed the 891321 airings on Golf Channel in the last two weeks, take a look at it below.
If you told me Henrik Stenson did that exact same thing, but kept his 3-wood intact instead of the 7-iron, I’d actually probably believe you even though someone should probably tell him to take the driver out a little more often. At a moment’s notice, Stenson is definitely liable to snap a club, destroy a locker or take out further frustration on the course itself…
…but, we also can’t ignore that he’s simply one of the best players in the world, and one that fell off the face of the earth after winning the PLAYERS in 2009, to the point where he wasn’t even good enough to win his own club championship. He’s come back from that to be one of the best ball strikers out there, someone who goes after pretty much every hole in an aggressive nature and he’s one of the game’s best interviews on top of being slightly crazy. He’s the full package.
T2. Sergio Garcia (71)
We’ve been watching Sergio Garcia for the last sixteen years, and he’s one of those players that has never once, at any point, ceased to be fascinating both as a player and as a person. Think about the transformations we’ve seen over the years. He’s been the up and coming superstar:
The hated club waggler when he played in the U.S. and the beloved Ryder Cup hero while in Europe:
The angry, “I hate golf” Sergio:
And now, not dissimilar to Phil Mickelson, Sergio has turned himself into a respected elder statesman of the game who is actually having fun again on the course. It’s good to see too because we’re talking about one of the most talented ball strikers to ever come through the game with a unique swing, and even though the anger doesn’t come out nearly as often anymore, Garcia’s #TourSauce game is right up there with the best.
I’m still a believer that there’s a major in his future, and I can’t really think of a better story outside of Tiger somehow climbing the mountain again, than Sergio finally grabbing that first major win.
T2. Jordan Spieth (71)
Jordan Spieth shouldn’t be this good. Spieth is in Australia this week for the Australian Open and he was asked by a young boy about whether he believes in God or science. Spieth answered the question as if he were asked about what he had for breakfast that morning, with an ease that shouldn’t be possible for someone who just turned 22 a few months ago. This is what we’ve come to expect though from Spieth, both on and off the course. He’s so polished in every aspect of the game and in such a genuine way that it’s impossible to not only come away impressed, but in sheer awe at what you just witnessed and there’s probably no athlete in the world today who comes across as being more real than Spieth.
What makes it even better is that he’s probably the best player in the world too, thanks to a remarkable level of consistency that never really seems to go away. He’s not the biggest hitter out there, but he makes up for it with a superb iron game, a putter that doesn’t seem to ever miss from twenty feet and recovery skills that are reminiscent of Seve Ballesteros. His physical limitations also never really come into play because he seems to be one of the smartest players on tour and it’s made even better by the outstanding relationship that he has with caddie Michael Greller.
As we all know though, golf is hard even for the best in the world, and in terms of his watchability, Spieth combines his unbelievable talent with a nearly unmatched level of #TourSauce both in quality and quantity.
It feels unfair that we’re as blessed as we are to have Spieth at just 22 years old. He feels like a once in a lifetime player that we’re lucky to have pass through our daily routine. Unfortunately for him, this ranking was one of the few things he didn’t win in 2015. That honour goes to…
1. Rory McIlroy (74)
Ultimately, Rory just beating out Spieth and Sergio for this spot seems fitting because when I really sit down and think about it, there’s no one in the game right now that gets me more excited to watch or talk about golf than him. When Rory hurt himself over the summer and had to miss a chunk of time, including the Open Championship at the Old Course where he seemed destined to shoot about 79-under par and win by 58 shots, it really sucked. There’s been a lot of talk about the new big three with Rory, Spieth and Jason Day and while I totally get the idea of trying to shoehorn this into a thing, it’s still pretty clear to me that if they are all playing at their best, Rory walks away with a tournament win by three or four shots. He’s that good and when he’s playing in an event, I will usually do whatever I can to tune in.
He’s an insanely good ball striker with every club in the bag, which allows him to be super aggressive too. If you can find actual footage of Rory laying up when he had even the slightest chance of going for the green, you’re likely looking at something as rare as a U.S. Ryder Cup win. I mean, it sounds different when it comes off of his clubs.
Much like Spieth, Rory has also already mastered the #TourSauce game to a near-Tiger level of quality.
On top of all of that, he’s probably Phil’s top challenger for best interview in the game, and he’s in the Oosthuizen/Scott realm for the most aesthetically pleasing swing that you’ll find.
It’s for all of these reasons that Rory McIlroy takes the top spot in the Golfer Watchability Index.